What’s that sound I hear in the distance? Could it really be that the AOTY horn is sounding already? It must be: I can see critics emerging from their homes, lifting their hands to shield tired eyes from the light of the winter sun, thrusting forth stone tablets onto which they’ve etched their AOTY lists. It is a sacred duty they are compelled to fulfill – though they no longer quite know why they’ll soon amass upon the hallowed ground before the Great Hall of Lists. Then they’ll look at each other and solemnly intone, “did Kanye release a record this year? I dunno. That then. Maybe Radiohead.”
There’s only one definitive list though. This one. What makes it definitive? It’s mine. The fact nobody seems to agree with any of my choices only makes it more definitive.
So click on, young wanderer, if you wish to know what really were the best albums released this year. But remember: the real Album of the Year may just be the friends we made along the way. Continue reading
It’s been a bit quiet here on Wanton Dilettantery over the past 2 months. It turns out buying and moving into a new house is really quite time consuming/insanely stressful. Who knew? But while I haven’t had much time to vainly fling words at music I have still found the time to fulfill my sworn duty to produce a 25 track playlist every 3 months. Some things are too important to let trifling things such as decorating or buying furniture get in the the way.
This year seems to already be a vintage one in terms of quieter sounds – sad pieces that take their cues from post- rock, modern classical and ambient/ drone. Kristoffer Lo’s The Black Meat might just be my pick of the bunch so far, not least for it’s great backstory – it was recorded in a disused lighthouse at the southernmost point of Norway. It has the desolate sounds to match – at 10 quiet minutes it might not seem like an obvious choice to start a playlist but good lord does it earn it. Elsewhere Dag Rosenquist’s exquisite static, Western Skies Motel’s sparse, fragmented take on American Primitivism, Christina Ott’s spacefaring neo-classical and Ben Lukas Boysen’s piano led ambience flying the flag for the quiet and the delicate. And with records from the likes of Ian William Craig and Eluvium still to come it’s really a special time for Team Quiet.
Which is not to say there isn’t anything interesting going on in Team Loud. It might not quite be as spectacular a time for the riff hungry but Bossk’s leftfield shift from post-metal to post-everything on Audio Noir has probably been the years highest point for me. It’s a record that demands to be heard as a whole but I’ve slipped Kobe in here as it’s just too good to leave out. Big Business have made a welcome return with Command Your Weather (which I just reviewed for Echoes & Dust) and sound as fantastic as ever, whilst Welsh 2 piece VAILS dropped a second ep of meaty, gravel voiced riffy brilliance. Cobalt have made an unlikely return after losing their vocalist and whilst for my money Slow Forever could do with some serious editing it’s still an undeniably powerful listen. Kvelertak’s third album has proved divisive, as has Gojira’s latest, but both are bright and celebratory in their way and have both seen a lot of action on my stereo, even if neither are likely to rank as their very best work.
In weirder heavy sounds Japan’s Otoboke Beaver have been getting a lot of love round Chez Dilettantery (note to self: never call it that again) with their effervescant blend of punk, harcore, noise and bubblegum pop. WRONG are basically and Unsane/Helmet tribute act but that’s a sound that will never get old to me, whereas Head Wound City feature guys from Blood Brothers and sound a lot like Blood Brothers. This is A Good Thing. Then there’s Menimals. I’ve no idea what the deal is with Menimals, but I think I like it.
To file under consistently great people doing consistently great things; Marrisa Nadler, Spencer Krug’s Moonface and Aesop Rock, all of whom are releasing effortlessly wonderful music that could easily be taken for granted. Moonface’s latest isn’t their best but I’m a sucker for Krug’s weird theater school preciousness and pretentiousness (who couldn’t fall in love with a line like,”I know that my behaviour is partly why you turned into a blade of grass“?). Whereas Aesop Rock followed up a career best record with an arguably even better one. The man can do no wrong in my eyes. Less expected was Dälek returning sans producer Oktopus yet sounding as potent as ever with Asphalt for Eden, a record every bit as vital as their best work in their first incarnation. Ok, maybe not quite as vital as Absence. But then almost nothing is.
It’s a good time for music fans, if not for human beings in general, what with the world at large seems to basically be on fire and careening towards a cliff face. At least we’ll go down with a decent sountrack.
If you ask me – and since you’re on a blog solely written by me I’m assuming you are sort of asking me, or at least not telling me to shut up as I blurt my opinions into your faces – it’s been a pretty good start to the year. There haven’t been many records that have really kicked me in the face and demand attention, but there have been plenty of rather good ones. It feels like 2016 is acting like a wily poker player, keeping it’s cards close to it’s chest while staring me down with a cold, blank gaze. And like anyone half decent at poker it’ll probably fleece me of all my cash before it’s done.
Though I will at least get some shiny new records in return. Poker players don’t tend to give you those once they’ve cleaned you out.
Open Mike Eagle and Paul White have dropped the best record of the year thus far for my money. From the moment I heard it Check to Check’s perfect portrayal of a web-junkies daily life rang shamefully true for me, as I’m sure it will for many others. Having Siri tell us computers run the world at the end is a bit too on-the-nose for my tastes but Mike’s verses are so good I have to include it here. Wooden Indian Burial Ground are the band I’ve probably listened to the most, with their Thee Oh Sees/Ty Segal esque garage psych come surf rock circus packed with dumb hooks infecting my brain and keeping me coming back. Witness Sad Audience and try to resist.
Despite being a fan of everyone involved I didn’t quite fall for Nevermen‘s everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to things. Their record is so overstuffed and over-produced listening to it is a tiring experience. But Wrong Animal Right Trap’s hook keeps creeping into my consciousness at weird moments, so it deserves an inclusion as the song my brain chooses to play itself while I’m not looking. On the other hand I did fall head over heels for Esperanza Spalding‘s intoxicating pop-jazz. Emily’s D+Evolution has been the surprise of the year for me so far, with the kind of sound that I tend to mentally file under ‘pleasant enough,’ say sounds alright and then promptly ignore forever. But something about her keeps drawing me back in.
Back in my usual wheelhouse metal has a really good start to the year. Latitudes added a wee bit of metal genre du jour black-metal into their palette and realised their potential on their fantastic record Old Sunlight, Melvins and Beehoover continued to be Melvins and Beehoover respectively -which is perfectly fine by me – whereas Conan, Slabdragger and Hag brought the riffs in typically sludgy and furious fashion. Oranssi Pazuzu undoubtedly stole the show though with their strange and wonderful melange of psych-jazz-metal on Värähtelijä, which might just be the best thing I’ve heard so far this year. I’m not sure – I’ll let you know when my head stops spinning. Speaking of psych it’s welcome moment of overground exposure continued with some excellent releases from Mugstar, Woods and Causa Sui. Haikai No Ku, Blown Out and the Cosmic Dead also released some Good Shit but they aren’t on spotify and so aren’t on this list. Also not on this list – Nonsun and Lycus. As much as I liked their records I’ve decided not to put any 20 minute slow-as-a-sloth-made-of-treacle momentum killers on my playlists this time out. You’ll get yourself to bandcamp and have a listen when you’re done here if you know what’s good for you.
And then of course Iggy Pop returned with Josh Homme in tow, sounding like David Bowie on Gardenia, just days after his old friend and collaborator passed on. It was a weird coincidence that initially put me off but by the time the album dropped I’d grown to love the song in all it’s laid back filth and pomp. Then of course there was Bowie’s own Blackstar, an album imbued with such power by his passing it makes the whole thing feel like a black magic ritual. I Can’t Give Everything Away was the song he chose to bookend an unsurpassable career with so it’s plenty good enough to close out this humble little playlist. I joined the chorus of people paying tribute with a piece you can read if you can bear to relive that sad day. I’m not sure I can.
And that’s just the stuff I was paying attention to. If you think it’s been a slow year so far then I’m not sure what you’re doing with your time. It’s been nuts.
Two of underground hip-hops most dazzling wordsmiths combine to push each other to new heights. Continue reading